Showtime’s doc, ‘Becoming Cary Grant,’ which premieres June 9th, offers an intimate look at the British-born actor who underwent LSD therapy to heal from his abandonment issues in an attempt to have healthier relationships with women.
Starring in classic films like The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, and To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant was one of Hollywood’s biggest leading men from the 1930s through the early 1960s. He was handsome, suave, and debonair — a successful actor who seemed to have it all. But underneath his charismatic gentlemanly persona lurked a lonely, disconnected soul.
“For many years, I have cautiously peered from behind the face of a man known as Cary Grant,” he had confessed. “The protection of that facade was both an advantage and a disadvantage. If I couldn’t see out, how could anyone see in?”
After two failed marriages and going on his third with actress Betsy Drake, Grant decided to try LSD therapy in the late 1950s at the age of 53. His intent with this alternative therapy was to understand why he couldn’t emotionally connect with women.
Grant underwent an over two-year journey, dropping acid 100 times to explore his subconscious. His takeaway? “LSD made me realize I was killing my mother through . . . relationships with women. I was punishing them for what she had done to me.”
Grant’s childhood was an unhappy one, haunted by the memory of his elder brother who had died at the age of one from tuberculous meningitis. Grant’s mother, Elsie, was a domineering woman who had a difficult time coping with the loss. When Grant was later born, she dressed him up in baby attire and curled his hair and continued to do so way past the appropriate age.
At age 9, he returned to his home in England and was told by his alcoholic father that his mother had gone to a resort. They had never spoken about her from then on. “There was a void in my life, a sadness of spirit that affected everything I did. I felt she had rejected me,” Grant had said. He later assumed she had died. To make matters worse, Grant’s father had quickly rebounded, starting a new life with a new lover and left his son under the care of his grandmother.
But at the age of 30 Grant discovered the truth about what had happened to his mother Elsie: his father had committed her to an asylum almost 20 years prior in 1915, diagnosing her with “mania.” Grant freed Elsie from the asylum in 1935, but because so much time had passed, he had to convince her he was her son. Once they re-established their relationship, Grant still felt the sting of his mother’s rejection as she showed little emotion towards him.
The LSD therapy, according to Grant, had helped him heal tremendously, despite the fact he went on to marry two more times. “I learned to accept the responsibility for my own actions and to blame myself and no one else for circumstances of my own creating,” he told Look magazine in 1959 about his LSD treatments. “At last I am close to happiness.”